We receive inquiries every day regarding winch selection so I thought I might address this in writing for easy reference. Some of this is based on experience, some on manufacturer data and some on opinion and is worth exactly what you just paid for it.
Recovery winches, like many products, come in various ‘flavors’. Many buyers focus primarily on price, some on name recognition and some purely on reputation and/or experience. We are all looking for ‘value’, “how much should I spend to get what I want or need?”
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
The fact of the matter is that most off roaders rarely use their winch, some are lucky (or unlucky) to use it once a year. Avid off roaders may use theirs every weekend. Some are expeditionary in nature and rely on their winch to pull them across rivers, over mountain passes and in many cases in areas with little to no help or support. Another words, their very lives may depend on their winch. So the first thing you need to do is understand YOUR needs.
Are you the ‘just in case’ user, the ‘I wheel several times per month’ user or the ‘I’m headed to the Amazon’ user?
HAMBURGERS, WON TON OR STIR FRY?
First off, where are winches made? This is the most common question next to ‘which winch do I need?’. The truth of the matter is that ALL winches are made in China or Taiwan except for Warn and Ramsey. But even that statement is not really accurate. Warn manufacturers their Zeon and other higher end winches in Oregon but you will find Chinese or Taiwanese parts in them. Warn’s lower end winches, including their VR EVO series, are typically made in China. ComeUp’s very good line of winches comes from Taiwan. Ramsey, while assembled in Oklahoma does use some Chinese and Taiwanese parts from my research. Every other winch is made in Asia, without exception. Tis the global economy as of today.
So then, what is the difference? If most winches are made in China or use Chinese parts then why spend more money? While there are a handful of factories in China that build winches for all of the winch ‘manufacturers’ and some use a system of ala carte design (you can choose this finish, these solenoids, these levers, etc) some are built to very specific design criteria. Some are tested more than others, some components are better than others, most always this is reflected in price and warranty.
BRAND DESIRE IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
There are many winch brands out there, some more popular than others but for this article I’ll focus on what U.S. Off Road carries. As of today we carry Warn, ComeUp, Mean Mother and Viper and I’ll group these by price/quality.
What I might classify as our entry level winches are Viper and (previously Engo). U.S. Off Road has carried these lines for many years and have sold hundreds with less than 1% warranty rates, which by any metric is exceptional. They start off in pricing at around $335 and go as high as $600 for synthetic rope versions in higher capacity ranges. Both are Chinese made of course, both companies have extensive experience in the industry. Viper’s main focus is the ATV/UTV market and sells thousands per year in addition to their vehicle recovery winches.
The Viper Max with steel cable I originally installed on the FJC in 2011 is now on my car trailer and works perfectly as well. Made in China but fully supported in the USA you can’t go wrong with Viper.
Then there’s a mashup of Warn, Mean Mother and ComeUP.
ComeUP has seen extensive use in Arctic conditions and expeditions, is made in Taiwan and has a very good reputation. They start off around $900 and go up from there. Again, components, design and packaging are great.
Warn needs no introduction, their brand is known world wide. Warn’s high end winches are made in Oregon, lower range in China. Expect top quality and support from Warn.
So which is the better winch? Do a Google search for ‘recovery winch problems’ or something similar and what will you find? Mostly Warn of course. Why? Simply because there are far more out there, not necessarily because Warn is lower quality.
Every single winch ever built will eventually fail. Whether it’s 1 year or 30 years down the road, lightly or heavily used, there is no firm criteria. What is the most common failure? Solenoids/contactors hands down. Most everyone uses sealed one piece Albright type solenoids now instead of the old ‘trashcan’ style that you would see on a Harbor Freight (30 day warranty) unit. The one piece versions are far superior when it comes to withstanding water, heat and vibration. Next is…and don’t laugh, coating failure. Yep, the paint or powder coat tends to come off. Some manufacturers use hydrocoating on their winches and seems to hold up very well but coatings on winches are really no different from paint on your 4×4 but in the form of powder coat, every so often you should clean the grime off and give it a coat of wax…no kidding. Keep a cover on it if you can. Next is motor failure, rare but it happens, especially if you over work the winch and the winch doesn’t have a thermal cutoff switch. Anything man makes can and will fail, but those are the common items.
STEEL VS SYNTHETIC
How about steel cable vs synthetic rope? Volumes have been written about this and arguments from both sides have some valid points so I’ll simply give my opinion. I will never ever use steel cable again if I can help it. Maybe on my car trailer where the pull is short and straight and the load is typically light and predictable. But on my 4×4 it will be synthetic every time. Why? Several reasons. Weight, a spool of 3/8″ x 85′ Amsteel or Dyneema is about 3.6 lbs, aluminum hawse 1.5 lbs for a total of 5.1 lbs. Steel cable on the other hand along with the roller fairlead can be up around 30 lbs or more. Then there’s safety, synthetic doesn’t store near as much energy as steel cable. Snap a rope and it typically falls to the ground, snap steel and you better have a winch blanket on it or you may lose body or truck parts.
Rope is much easier to work with but the drawback is abrasion and UV. On our integrated winch mounts the winch is under the bumper cover so UV doesn’t come in to play as much but if you have an exposed winch installation like on a Jeep then it is a very good idea to have a winch cover, and use it. Rope abrasion is best dealt with by using a rock sheath, a ballistic nylon cover over the rope that can be positioned over a rock edge or other spot where the rope may rub. Steel cable can rust so it has to be maintained as well. Like I said, use your Googlefu and read some of the very good articles out there about steel vs synthetic.
OK, SO WHICH ONE ALREADY?
Generally speaking I feel as of today that the Mean Mother winches give you a lot for your money. Me, I’ll spend a few hundred dollars more for the Mean Mother over entry level winches but that doesn’t mean a Viper 13K winch with synthetic rope is a bad choice, it just depends on your needs and usage. Should you go with Warn? If you have the money it won’t be lost purchasing a Warn… or a Mean Mother or ComeUp for that matter.
Most people are buying ‘insurance’, light trails, fishing/hunting/camping or even moving a downed tree, this is 95% of us and for those it probably won’t make sense to purchase a $1000 winch but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. For most of us though a VR EVO is all the winch we need.
Many will ask what I run on my vehicles? Right now, my 2008 FJ Trail Team, with one of our winch mounts, has a ComeUP 9500Rs, my last FJC started with a Viper 12K steel cable (still on my car hauler working hard years later) and then an Engo 10k with synthetic (still operating today with the new owner). My previous FJ62 had a Mean Mother Edge 12k on an ARB bumper, worked beautifully.
I classify the Warn Zeon and M series and ComeUp winches as expedition class units, but you will pay for them and their abilities. Do you need a built in wireless remote to fully operate your winch (now available on the VR EVO) or is an add on module ok? Is in and out enough or do you want temperature warnings too? Do I care about the brake design? Motor specs? Line speed? There are plenty of details that can drive your decision and the best advice is to study the specs of each winch.
This is very much a case of getting what you pay for but either way we feel that we have a solution to your recovery winch needs.
4WD Toyota Owner magazine has written up a great review of our popular FJ Cruiser winch mount bumper and the Mean Mother 9500lb synthetic rope winch combo. We are elated to be a distributor for Mean Mother and this article illustrates very clearly why we chose to carry their line.
U.S. Off Road is proud to announce that we are now a stocking distributor of quality Mean Mother winches and recovery equipment. The primary focus is obviously winches but we’ll be adding the full line to our store.
“The Mean Mother brand of 4WD winches & recovery equipment is exclusively owned by Haigh Australia. We have been servicing the automotive aftermarket industry for over 40 years and today we are recognised and respected for our diverse range of automotive & lifestyle products and brands.
The Mean Mother brand represents strength, quality and durability across all platforms with a significant emphasis on innovative quality control and testing procedures.
Mean Mother products are not only built tough, they are designed to provide fault free operation under the toughest of Australian conditions. If you are looking to “Explore your Limits” with confidence then you can’t go past Mean Mother.”
We are happy to announce the first new product in our Recovery Rope line.
1″ KINETIC RECOVERY ROPE SPECIFICATIONS: Length: 30′ For Use on full size vehicles to about 9,500 lbs Min. Breaking Load: 33,500lbs Double Braid Nylon Construction Polymeric Coating in Olive Drab Green for Excellent Abrasion Resistance Sealed Against Stain and Water Absorbtion Eyes coated in tough 603 Polyurethane for protection UV Resistant
Here are a series of customer made videos showing the installation of our winch bumper in his FJ Cruiser along with a Smittybilt winch. He does a good job of covering things which makes this a great tool to go along with our install docs. As the Tacoma install is almost identical it’s worth watching for those applications as well.
First Video: This model of our mount is from 2014 or earlier. We have since changed a few things including going to 1″ wide shackle mounts, more drainage in the winch tub and made some slight clearance adjustments to the torque arms as noted in the video. We also now include some plates that go on over the 3 outer mounting studs for better faster surface contact, never had a problem but we thought it was a good idea. The torque arms are installed and welded with jigs but can flex left to right even though they are .250″ thick as that is not their intended purpose but rather to arrest the torque forces created by winch usage in a front to back and vertical planes, so flexing them for a perfect fit is perfectly ok.
As noted in the install docs, the AC lines will vary from vehicle to vehicle in their alignment, some need to be moved as noted, some do not, our V notch in the rear usually gives plenty of clearance in 2007-2009 models but in 2010 Toyota made some changes and will usually require moving the AC line back as noted in the video. Using fuel line is also noted in the docs and was used here as well, makes for a good long term insurance policy against abrasion that I have verified on my own FJ and others over a period of 7+ years. Every winch solenoid box is different and routing the 2 to 4 gauge wires are therefore all different but zip tying them to the bracing, as done in this video, always works well and is highly recommended.
Cutting the plastic is typically a very simple task but the rusted fasteners made your job a bit tougher, you he was smart to leave some plastic to trim to fit as noted in the docs.
We offer powder coating as an option for our Winch Mount Bumpers and FJ Camera Armor. While some will still opt to paint or coat their own bumpers (this article discusses more), many of you prefer to receive your bumper or cam armor coated and ready to install.
We have created some custom formulations to match the factory colors using quality Tiger Drylac powder. The finish is a 20% matte with a decent texture and is available in black or silver. Be aware that powder coat will still show some marks from the bending process and any welding beads or heat deformities.
While we try to keep coated product in stock, please expect a 4-7 working day delay in shipping if you purchase powder coat. Custom colors are available, please contact us to quote you accordingly.
Please understand that even though we go to great lengths to package and protect the powder coat we are not be liable for any shipping damage to the coating itself. Luckily it rarely happens.
See the high resolution photos below to get a better idea of texture and sheen.
The production prototype of our 2005-2011 Tacoma redesign rolled out today. Here’s a few quick and dirty photos for a sneak peak. Will do a last test fit sometime in the next week or so then production in late June. Should price out in the $499-525 range like our other bumpers.
Very similar to our 2012-2015 Taco bumper but about 3/4″ deeper and of course has our new 1″ wide shackle mounts.
We are absolutely elated to once again be a sponsor for the 8th Annual FJ Northeaster’s Run taking place this weekend, May 14th-17th at Rausch Creek Off Road Park in Tremont, Pennsylvania! The NE Run is a gathering of hundreds of Toyota off road enthusiasts from all over the north east and is a must do if you are in the area. If you haven’t registered then venture over to their website and do so now.
If you are going to the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree please make sure to visit us there. This is our 4th year as a sponsor for one of the finest Toyota events in the nation!
On that note, we will be gone April 29th through May 3rd. Any orders placed after April 28th at 12:00 PM will not ship until after May 4th. To ensure your order ships before then please place your order as soon as possible.
Tired of seeing about 60% field of view (FOV) out of your FJ’s backup camera? Don’t like your stock tire cover but don’t want to see the ugly camera housing exposed when you remove it?
We were too so we came up with Camera Armor. Not only does Camera Armor look better and provide a 100% FOV out of your backup camera but it also has a hidden bracket mounting system so you can mount a GoPro, antenna or light in the protective area of your spare!
As with our winch mount bumpers, we provide this to you in bare .125″ thick steel. You can paint, powder coat or whatever makes you happy. The aluminum end cap is anodized clear to protect the aluminum from the weather and keep it looking good. Hardware mounts flush and is stainless steel.
Installation is simple, pull off your spare wheel/tire, slide the camera armor over the studs and reinstall your wheel. Done. You can then leave it with the filler bracket or swap out brackets without removing the wheel again.
When you purchase Camera Armor you will receive:
Camera Armor body
Aluminum end cap/bracket mount
Filler bracket (does not protrude from under the cap but fills the slots so it doesn’t collect dirt/water)
Extended bracket with no accessory holes drilled. (you can bend, drill and cut to your heart’s desire)
2 x stainless steel flat allen head screws (1/4″ x 20)
Paint or coat as you wish, you can also paint the aluminum cap, make it yours.
U.S. Off Road will be returning for our 4th Lone Star Toyota Jamboree April 30th-May 3rd. We will be hosting our 2nd Stocker Poker Run where the winner receives a choice of FJ or Tacoma Winch Mount Bumper!
This is scheduled for Friday, May 1st at 1PM. We are going to limit this to 15 FJ’s or 2005-2015 Tacos. Looking forward to another fun Poker Run this year!
We are now a dealer for Lock N Roll off road hitches. We have used their hitches on our FJ and M101A2 for the last year and absolutely love it!
The articulating Lock ‘N’ Roll® trailer hitch is the safest, easiest to use, most versatile on road, off road hitch on the market. Utilizing 360 degrees of rotation and 3 axis of movement, this on-road, off-road hitch gives you the freedom that you can’t get with a ball hitch, but without the jerking and banging of a pintle hitch. Lock N Roll hitches are not only the best off road hitch in the world, but the best trailer hitch, period.
If you are taking your trailer off road then forget the pintle or ball hitch, go with a Lock N Roll!
We are now a stocking dealer for Factor55 and their killer line of recovery gear including their ProLink, FlatLink and HitchLink products.
If you have never heard of Factor55 then you are really missing out on one of the premier off road parts manufacturers and their line of products.
Located in Boise, Idaho we are an engineering design firm specializing in mechanical design and analysis. Our staff has extensive experience in the Aerospace, Defense, and semiconductor industry but we have always been passionate about off roading through out our careers. All of our products are designed in house using the latest 3D CAD software and optimized using Cosmos FEA ( Finite Element Analysis). Before we release any products to the public, we also perform a destructive test on each design with the assistance of a test facility equipped with test measurement and data recording equipment. We take great pride in knowing all of our products are derived from sound engineering disciplines.Why go through all of this for the off road market? Simple, we want to make sure we are producing the highest quality, best value products for our customers.
U.S. Off Road has moved! Not far, about 30 miles southwest to Granbury, Texas is all. We are busy setting up a little bit of showroom space and getting settled but if you are local or passing through be sure to stop by and say hello. You can find us on our contact page.
Don’t want to add an aftermarket bumper to your Tacoma just so you can mount a winch? You are not alone. Aftermarket bumpers are 100-150 lbs, degrade aerodynamics and are expensive. Keep your stock bumper, factory looks and your MPG with the installation of this winch mount bumper within and behind the stock bumper cover.
Designed and built in Fort Worth, Texas!
Lighter than most aftermarket bumpers at 63 lbs.
Built to last. .250″ steel winch tub with a .125″ facia for a total of .375″ of protection up front!
Full height front and rear winch cradle.
Light tabs will enable the mounting of most 4″ wide LED lights or our 2″ Sirius lights.
Reinforced lower facia with 4 x .130″ gussets, adds bashplate protection up front.
4″ drain holes facilitate access to winch mounting bolts
Will accept most winches with industry standard 10″ x 4.5″ bolt pattern.
Works with either roller fairleads or synthetic style hawse.
Will not work with a body lift.
Shackle mounts are mounted through and through, TIG welded front and rear and are drilled .906″ ID for .890″ OD or smaller pins which is common for a 3/4″ shackle. Pins sizes can vary.